Without a legal team, Zuma’s defence strategy in corruption trial is unclear

Jacob Zuma and Thales face corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges linked to the arms deal.

FILE: Former President Jacob Zuma in court on 23 May 2019. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/Eyewitness News.

DURBAN - The trial against former President Jacob Zuma and French arms company Thales is expected to kick off in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday morning.

Zuma and Thales face corruption, racketeering and money laundering charges linked to the arms deal.

However, with uncertainty over Zuma’s legal representation, some legal experts say the matter could be postponed once more.

The case against Zuma and Thales was last heard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court in February in absentia of the accused.

During that appearance, senior state prosecutor advocate Billy Downer, the former president’s attorney Rudolph Baloyi and legal representative for Thales advocate Barry Roux appeared before Judge Nkosinathi Chili.

Both the Defence and accused told the court that they would be ready to commence with the trial on Monday.

However, Zuma has since parted ways with his legal team and his defence strategy is not yet clear.

Legal expert advocate Mannie Witz said if Zuma hadn’t found legal representation by Monday, the court could persuade him to seek legal assistance and postpone the matter.

At the same time, human rights lawyer Richard Spoor has offered to represent the former president pro-bono, but Zuma has rejected this offer.

Zuma’s supporters say they plan to gather outside the High Court ahead of his appearance.

Spokesperson for the Zuma supporters Bishop Vusi Dube claims the State has no case but it’s being used to fight political battles by former president’s enemies.

Dube said unlike in Zuma’s past court appearances, only key figures among his supporters would gather outside court because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are not going to be putting people under pressure to come because it might even take him longer to come and address the people outside. But in the next meeting, we will be able to gather people only if the COVID thing has subsided.”

At the same time, the State said it was ready to proceed with the trial and has lined up at least 217 witnesses.

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